Re: Tank Car lettering conventions

Richard Hendrickson

On Dec 25, 2009, at 1:16 PM, Denny Anspach wrote:

Friends, would you kindly refer me to a ready source for learning
standard tank car lettering conventions? I have studied many tank
photos, some of them very nice high resolution, and either my eyes or
the pixelated nature of the photos have prevented me from actually
reading much of the lettering, or enough to determine patterns.

From what I am able to determine, it seemed common- required?- that
both reporting marks and car number be repeated on the sides of the
center sill, presumably so that if tank and frame were separated, the
source of each could still be identified. Capacity and weight the
same? What about other data?

Sometimes the decals provide the clues, but in instances presently at
hand, no such clues are available (in one instance, the fine white
lettering cannot be read against the light blue background decal
paper!) .

Any suggestions, help would be much appreciated.
As a general guide, which (among other things) explains the required
tank test data, one can hardly do better than the AAR Standard
Lettering and Marking Diagrams, which were published in every issue
of the Car Builders' Cyclopedias. Interestingly, These do not show
reporting marks and numbers on the center sill as a requirement,
though - as Tony Thompson has pointed out - most tank car owners, and
all of the major tank car leasing companies, did so. Nominal
capacity, light weight, and weigh station symbol and date were
generally just below the reporting marks and numbers on the tank, but
the exact arrangement varied (e.g., GATC tended to put them all on
the same line). Note, too, that tank cars, unlike other freight
cars, did not have to be periodically reweighed, as shippers were
charged on the basis of gallonage, not weight. Consequently, they
were reweighed only when repairs or modifications significantly
affected their light weight (e.g., the application of AB brake
equipment in place of K brakes). They often carried their NEW light
weight and weighing date for many years after they were built. As an
extreme case, I have a photo of a UTL Van Dyke car taken in the early
'50s which still bore the stenciling "NEW 4-12." though its trucks
(but not its KD brake equipment) had been changed. It should also be
pointed out that tank test data was simpler on cars (e.g., ICC -203s
in wine or corn oil service) that were not used for what the ICC
defined as "regulatory commodities" which would burn, explode,
corrode, etc. For more specific info, let me know off-list what
you're working on and I will consult my photo files.

Richard Hendrickson

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